Talking About Israel at JTS

Lunch and Learn Discussions for Students, Faculty, and Staff

Chancellor Arnold Eisen launched the Talking About Israel series of informal Lunch & Learn discussions so that The Jewish Theological Seminary's students, faculty, and staff together can learn about issues that affect the people of Israel on a daily basis. Authorities on various aspects of Israeli life join the JTS community to talk about their areas of expertise, and to help everyone understand the "facts" versus the "headlines."

“After Israel’s Elections: Does Israel Have a Foreign Policy? Domestic Politics and Strategy in Israeli Decision-Making” with Dr. Natan B. Sachs, research fellow, Foreign Policy, Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, Washington DC.

Natan Sachs is a research fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, and an adjunct assistant professor at Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program. His work focuses on Israeli foreign and domestic politics and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Dr. Sachs is currently writing a book about the domestic politics of Israeli foreign policy, with an emphasis on the interplay of grand strategy and party politics. He has written for Foreign Affairs magazine, the Washington Post, and the New York Times , among others, and provided commentary for numerous media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, the BBC, Al-Jazeera, and NPR. Previously, Dr. Sachs was a Fulbright fellow in Indonesia, where he conducted an empirical study on the behavioral effects of Islamic and national identities. He was subsequently a Hewlett fellow at Stanford’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. He earned a BA in the Amirim Excellence program at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and an MA and PhD in Political Science from Stanford University.


Dr Tsamir

"Hebrew Poetry Turning Israeli: The Poetry of the State and the Gender of Representation" with Dr. Hamutal Tsamir, senior lecturer, department of Hebrew Literature, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and author of In the Name of the Land: Nationalism, Subjectivity and Gender in the Israeli Poetry of the 1950s–1960s

Dr. Tsamir studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (Hebrew Literature and Language) and the Université Paris 8 in Saint-Denis (MA thesis on Yonah Wallach's early poetry). She wrote her dissertation at the Joint Doctoral Program in Jewish Studies at the University of California and the Graduate Theological Union, both in Berkeley. Dr. Tsamir's main field of interest and research is modern Hebrew poetry from the combined perspectives of nationalism/Zionism, gender, and Judaism. She is currently completing her second book; its working title is Poetry of Zionist Desire.

"The Crisis of Israeli Democracy" with Gershom Gorenberg, Jerusalem-based author of The Unmaking of Israel, a provocative examination of Israeli history that describes the crisis of Israeli democracy and lays out a liberal vision for the country's future.

Michael ChabonMr. Gorenberg is also the author of The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967–1977; senior correspondent for the American Parospect; and writer for the Atlantic, New York Times Magazine, New York Review of Books, Foreign Policy, and Ha'aretz (in Hebrew). Blog:; Twitter: @GershomG

"Until I read The Unmaking of Israel, I didn't think it could be possible to feel more despairing, and then more terribly hopeful, about Israel."

—Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay; The Yiddish Policemen's Union)


Amy Beth Oppenheimer"Religion and State in Israel Today: Film Screening and Discussion" with Amy Beth Oppenheimer, director of Faces of Israel, her first documentary.

One of Ms. Oppenheimer's motivations in creating the film was to develop an internal discussion piece for the Jewish community in order to explore the nature of the Jewish State and questions of Jewish identity. She is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she earned a degree in International Relations and Jewish Studies.


"Prayers, Songs, and Lyrical Subjectivity in the Works of Yehuda Amichai" with Dr. Vered Shemtov, Eva Chernov Lokey Senior Lecturer in Hebrew Language and Literature; coordinator, Hebrew Language and Literature, Stanford Language Center of Stanford University

Dr Shemtov

Dr. Shemtov's latest book is Changing Rhythms: Towards a Theory of Prosody in Cultural Context (Bar-Ilan Press). She is currently working on a book on notions of home in contemporary Hebrew literature. Some of her publications include articles on Jewish and Israeli perspectives of space in Yehuda Amichai's poetry, web-based assignments for promoting proficiency in Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTL), discontinuous spaces in A. B. Yehoshua's work, and the Bible in contemporary Israeli literature. She received her PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley.


Two Lectures in English and Hebrew by Yossi Klein Halevi, Israeli author and journalist, contributing editor to the New Republic, and fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute

Yossi Klein Halevi

In English:
"Beyond Left and Right: Toward a New Understanding of Israel's Predicament"

In Hebrew:
ששת הימים: מה קרה לנו כתוצאה של המלחמה
"What Happened to Us as a Result of the Six-Day War")

Sponsored by Hashahar Hebrew Fellows Program

"A permanent masterwork." —Cynthia Ozick on Yossi Klein Halevi's book At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for God with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land

Author and journalist Yossi Klein Halevi is a vital, active voice in Middle East reconciliation efforts. He has been a senior fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, and is currently chairman of Open House, a center for Arab-Jewish reconciliation in the working class town of Ramle near Tel Aviv. Mr. Klein Halevi is a frequent contributor to op-ed pages in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and New York Times. His first book, Memoirs of a Jewish Extremist, recounts his teenage years with Rabbi Meir Kahane and his subsequent disillusionment with Jewish militancy; he is currently completing a book about the Israeli paratroopers who fought in Jerusalem in 1967.

"Water As a Strategic Issue for Israel and the Middle East" with Dr. David B. Brooks, natural resource economist, International Development Research Centre

From Ottawa, Canada, Dr. David Brooks is an expert on water rights and distribution who explores the links between environmental protection and the uses of minerals, energy, and water. He is the author of Watershed: The Role of Fresh Water in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (IDRC Books, 1994), and editor of Water Balances in the Eastern Mediterranean (IDRC Books, 2000). Dr. Brooks's books address both natural- and human-resource issues.

"Under the Radar: Shaharit and the Remaking of Israeli Politics"
with Dr. Eilon Schwartz (LC '81)

Dr. Schwartz is founder and fellow of the Israeli think tank Shaharit; executive director of the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership; founding chair of the Israeli Union for Environmental Defense; Chair of Life and Environment (umbrella organization for environmental groups in Israel); and faculty member of the Melton Center for Jewish Education of JTS and at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


"Triangulate This: American Jewry Between Washington and Jerusalem" with J. J. Goldberg, senior columnist for the Jewish Daily Forward and author of Jewish Power: Inside the American Jewish Establishment



"Israel's Environmental Challenges and the Role of Academia" with Dr. Arie Nesher, professional director, Porter School of Environmental Studies, Tel Aviv University; architect; and city planner